What’s New for the 24th of November: Magic Realism, How Trolls See It, Chocolate, Hardanger Fiddles, Mammals, and More

She took everything I thought I’d learned about kindness from women, and she — she laid it on me like a curse. — Jennifer Stevenson’s Trash Sex Music

So Jen was telling me just now about her wonderful magic realism novel Trash Sex Magic and the weird distinction writers try to make which drive her nuts: Science fiction writers like to say that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishible from magic.’ I say, ‘Any internally-consistent magic is indistinguishible from technology.’  You can read her essay on this here. She’s way more coherent than Norman Spinrad was on the subject earlier this week when he was babbling that fantasy had shoved SF aside in bookstores.

Neuromancer is SF, right? Sure. The Loa are just AI.  And chocolate is just chocolate. My ass. It’s all in the assumptions which are never the same in us. Everything has magic in it if you know where to look for it. Keep that in mind as you read her essay and the rest of this edition. Now shall I pour you a drink? Though it’s pricey, I do recommend the ten-year-old Kinrowan Limited Reserve Cider. 

Cat has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart, which Reynard’s reading now. It says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’. The novel  has some astounding descriptions of Irish music sessions it, so do check it.

Kestrell has a very cool collection for us to read: ‘Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Troll’s Eye View also includes stories by such writers as Jane Yolen, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Ellen Kushner, and Joseph Stanton. The variety of the characters and the quality of the writing in these fifteen fairy tales should make this book appealing reading for everyone and, although an inner leaf of the book lists its intended audience as grades four and up or ages nine and up, fairy tale lovers of all ages should pick up a copy.’

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘Subtitled “The Sliabh Luachra story,” this book attempts to demythologize the heartland of Sliabh Luachra, a legendary area where Irish traditional music is concerned. To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’

Robert happily says ‘The late Kage Baker was one of those admirably unpredictable writers whose stories never seemed to fit into any sort of mold, whether they were part of a series or stood alone. There is, though, a kind of magic in her storytelling that ties them all together, fully in evidence in The Bird of the River, a new novel set in the universe of The Anvil of the World.’

Robert has a cautionary note: ‘You probably already know this, but reviewers do try to research the items offered for review, particularly if they’re from a source new to the reviewer. Sadly, researching confectioners Lolli & Pops was very difficult, possibly because they recently filed for bankruptcy. The company’s website is not terribly informative — for example, a search on the site for their Madagascar Sambirano chocolate bar turned up no results. I did find, on another site, that this is No. 1 in a series of single-origin chocolates, this one from the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar.’

Richard brings us Bend It Like Beckham,  a film about ‘…Indian cooking, cultural absurdity, family love, and an abiding desire to play what the English call ‘the beautiful game’…’ That game, of course, would be football; what we in the States call soccer. What happens when a young Indian girl dreams of playing football like English football star David Beckham? Culture clash, among other things — but Nathan says that ‘[t]he underlying theme of culture clash is better because it is underlying, rather than politicised and angry. Instead of favouring either the Indian or the English culture, the writer shows how the two manage their uneasy coexistence.’


Gary is quite pleased with a bit of Norwegian hardanger fiddle music of a very contemporary kind. It’s the second release by the fiddle-guitar-drums trio Lumen Drones: Umbra is an album that can be played on background for atmosphere, but it also rewards repeated close listening.’

‘Anyone who enjoys international folk and dance music, and definitely everyone who loves Bulgarian and other Balkan music, should hop on the Blato Zlato bandwagon,’ Gary says. Read his review of In The Wake to find out why.

Gary found something to like on this new album of holiday tunes from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, titled Big Band Holidays II. ‘For the most part this is a very enjoyable program of holiday music, even for a Scrooge like me.’

Lars has a choice piece of Scottish trad for us: ‘I never really took to the last album, May You Never Lack a Scone, but after hearing this I think it is time to go back and check again. Cause Rare is really something special. Maybe not quite another “The Lasses Fashion,” but almost. Had Jock Tamson’s Bairns been 25 years younger we would have hailed them as the new Messiahs of Scottish folk, now we just get proof that these lads know their craft and that they still can deliver the goods.’

Paul with a head possibly clear of real ale says of Fairport’s Cropredy Capers: 1979 – 2003: ‘Okay, musically, it’s all here. From stalwarts like ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ and ‘Matty Groves’ to an epic version of ‘Sloth’ running at an astounding 19 minutes, and of course the tune sets where Swarbs or Ric Sanders (or both, oh and let’s not forget Chris Leslie) run riot. But it’s the odds and sods that make this album.’

Our What Not this week has Robert on another trip to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and a survey of mammals: ‘When I was a small boy, my father would periodically take me up to the Field Museum. I was always eager to see the “stuffed animals”, which formed a large part of the Museum’s public displays. Well, they’re still there, in a somewhat different arrangement than I remember, but still interesting.’ Go here to get the full tour.


Though it be a month before Winter is officially upon us, it feels and looks like it’s already here. So let’s have the quiet beauty of ’White Snow’ by Nightnoise to see us out. This was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-six years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and it included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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